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Reality Check: Judgment Days

Q. At a party at my mother's, my 2-year-old threw a tantrum and hit me when I tried to calm her down. The older folks were surprised I didn't swat her right back, and said I was too lax. How should I have handled their criticism?

A. If only I had a nickel for every time I got a judgmental stare-down from the elders when my 3-year-old acted her age in front of a crowd. Don't bother quoting child-development theory -- they won't get it and will regale you with fantastic stories about how back in their day, when kids got "outta line" Instead, have the courage to stick to your guns (well, keep 'em holstered!) and try one of these tactics:

Remove your child from the room until she calms down (and long enough for the critics to forget your child was acting up in the first place). They'll think you were off letting her have it, and leave you alone.

Ignore their raised eyebrows and respectfully tell them that though you appreciate some parents' belief that spanking is an acceptable form of discipline, you've decided it's not right for you -- or for your child -- and leave it at that.